With the monsoon season stepping into the last month, a study of the available data reveals that while overall rainfall in the country is slightly below normal, sowing area is almost similar to that of last year.
As on August 31, monsoon rainfall in the country stood at a deficit of 6 per cent from LPA, while 3 out of 4 meteorological subdivisions were in the red. Higher deficit was seen in east and northeast India where rainfall was lower by 25 per cent from LPA, followed by northwest India (-4 per cent) and Central India (-1 per cent). The southern peninsula received highest rainfall with a surplus of 8 per cent, as heavy rains lashed Kerala and Karnataka.
Sowing progress of all kharif crops was at 1,022.87 lakh hectares, lower by 0.41 per cent from 1,027.13 lakh hectares in the corresponding period last year. Area under rice gained marginally by 0.57 per cent, while pulses was lower by 2.55 per cent. Major fall in area under sowing was seen in urad (-12.80 per cent). Coarse cereals are being cultivated in 172.31 lakh hectares, lower by 3.85 per cent from 179.21 lakh hectares last year. Despite sharp rise in marginal support price (MSP) for ragi, area under its cultivation has declined 17 per cent to 7.54 lakh hectares.
Area under cotton plantation was lower by 1.85 per cent till August 31 as Indian farmers had planted cotton in about 117.66 lakh hectares as compared to 119.88 lakh hectares in the corresponding period of last year. Cotton acreages in the northern region was 5 per cent lower than last year. Cotton acreage in the central region was marginally higher due to higher sowing numbers in Madhya Pradesh which offset acreages losses in Maharashtra. Maharashtra, which has the highest area under cotton cultivation, has witnessed a remarkable fall as farmers switched to other profitable crops. Data compiled by agricultural ministry showed farmers in Maharashtra had sown about 40.99 lakh hectares of cotton in 2018 against 41.98 lakh hectares last year.
Farmers showed interest in planting oilseed with area under cultivation rising 2.5 per cent to 171.30 lakh hectares till August 31. Soybean acreages for 2018-19 was higher by 6.24 per cent at 111.76 lakh hectares against 105.20 lakh hectares last year.
Castor seed sowing, which was lagging behind considerably until early August, has recovered well with an area of 5.07 lakh hectares, which is 13 per cent.
Among kharif spices, area has increased both under turmeric and chilli cultivation in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Turmeric is cultivated in 0.64 lakh hectares, higher by 8 per cent. Chilli area increased sharply by 77 per cent mainly due to a sharp increase in cultivation in Andhra Pradesh. Area sown increased to 1.03 lakh hectares against 0.58 lakh hectares last year.
Indian farmers planted about 30.65 lakh hectare under Guar till August 2018, higher by 8 per cent from the previous year.
The authors are fundamental research analysts with Karvy Comtrade